Tag Archives: electronic software distribution

Windows 7 ISO, Bootable Media and the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool

One of the big benefits of buying ESD aside from the environmental one, is that it increases the convenience of buying software online.  Not only can you typically get it faster than waiting for a physical shipment in the mail, but you also get the benefit of being able to re-download it in case you need to reinstall in the future.  Additionally, we also store your product key in the cloud so you don’t have to keep silly post it notes or DVD jewel cases around.

One drawback, however, is when you need to install Windows from bootable media such as a DVD.  With Windows Vista, Microsoft Store only gave you an option to download the Windows setup files, and to install windows, you would run setup.exe to kickoff the Windows setup.

This happens when you have a PC without an existing version of Windows installed, or even a Mac where you are trying to install Windows with boot camp.

In these cases, it’s hardly convenient to have an ESD version of Windows since you have no way of starting setup without a lot of manual steps.

Windows 7 ISO files

After purchasing your downloadable Windows 7 edition on Microsoft Store, you now have the option of several types of downloads.  By default, we offer the 32-bit version of the edition you purchased that can be downloaded and Windows setup can be kicked off right away.  This is the version that most of our customers be downloading.

However, in addition to this, we also now offer a set of “Advanced” download options that gives you choice of 64-bit installer and both 32-bit and 64-bit ISO files!

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Offering ISO files in addition to our regular “installer” versions, helps customers that need both the convenience of a download but also need physical media to boot from.

The Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool

Our team is committed to creating the best experience for downloading software from Microsoft.  We previously created the Microsoft Store Download Manager to help with the download process.

To burn an ISO to DVD you can use any of the many free or commercial applications that are available.   However, majority of these programs don’t provide easy ways to create bootable USB Keys in addition to DVDs.

We created the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool (WUDT) to help customers that have more advanced needs for their Windows 7 installation and need an easy way to create bootable media.  The WUDT will take the ISO files from Microsoft Store and easily create either a bootable DVD or a USB Key with only a few clicks.

This is a free tool and available for immediate download.

Here is the WUDT step-by-step for creating a bootable USB Key:

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After the process is completed, you can take the USB key and plug it into your target installation PC and choose to boot from the USB Key which will automatically start the Windows 7 installer.  If you chose to create a bootable DVD instead, the process is nearly identical except that you’ll boot from the DVD.

For answers to frequently asked questions, please see our FAQ.

Microsoft Store Download Manager

One of the challenges for the Microsoft Store was how to effectively deliver Electronic Software Distribution (ESD) products to customers in a way that was both highly secure and fault tolerant. Oh yeah, it needs to be fast as well right?

The simple way to deliver ESD products is to enable the most basic file download, which is by HTTP download through your web browser. This is the defacto method of downloading that everyone is accustomed to on the web.

Internet Explorer HTTP file dowload prompt

While this is guaranteed to work across any web browser, this method can be problematic.   Raise your hand if any of these apply to you while you’ve been downloading a file with your web browser:

  1. You accidentally hit the <esc> key, or the Cancel button which then aborted your download.
  2. You system needed to be rebooted due to a software install or system update.
  3. Your wireless connection got disconnected at an unexpected time.

I could go on and on, but I know that I’ve fallen victim to all 3 of the above situations at various times.

Lastly, how many times have you tried to download something, then realized that the file was extremely large and just stared at the progress dialog?    (I’m pretty sure that Murphy’s Law would tell us that download just get slower if you stare at the progress bar).

To address these types of issues, we have created a Microsoft Store Download Manager to deal with the delivery of your ESD products to your PC.  We’ve had many customers buy ESD products through Microsoft Store already, so I thought it was a good time to explain what this download manager is, and why we created it.

The Microsoft Store Download Manager is a rich client application that you install on your PC which is used to download your first, and all subsequent, ESD products you buy from Microsoft Store.

If you don’t have the Download Manager installed when you choose to download your ESD purchase, you will be prompted to install it.  You can change your download preference at any time to revert back to HTTP browser download, but for reasons you’ll learn shortly, we recommend using the download manager whenever possible.

The Download Manager provides similar benefits of other download managers you make have used, but does differentiate itself in a few ways.

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Fault Tolerance

The Microsoft Store Download Manager provides fault tolerance against interrupted downloads and enables you to pause and resume your download at any time.  Have to reboot your PC because you just installed a system update? No problem. Just pause the download and resume the download from the Microsoft Store site after you’ve rebooted.  Were you disconnected from your wifi access point in the middle of a download?  No problem.  When you’ve reconnected, just hit Retry and your download will resume where it left off.

Faster downloads

The download manager also reduces the overall time required to download your ESD products.  By downloading smaller chunks of the files simultaneously with multiple connections, we can more effectively use your bandwidth to deliver the ESD product in a shorter amount of time.  This is the same strategy that you’ll see 3rd party general purpose download managers use.

This strategy is particularly effective if your ISP boosts your speeds for a small amount of a file transfer.  Comcast has a feature called Powerboost where they boost your download speeds for the first 10MB of a file.  Since we create a new connection for every chunk of the file, we can work very well with download speed boosters like Comcast’s. 

Optimization of multi-file downloads

When an ESD product requires multiple files to be downloaded, normally you would have to do an individual browser download for each and every file.  Since most web browsers limit the number of concurrent HTTP connections you can have (typically 2-4), you may be forced to sit there and babysit the download of the set of files.  Needless to say, this can be both cumbersome and time consuming.

The Download Manager facilitates this by automatically downloading all the necessary files for a given ESD product without any further user intervention.  it will download the first file (breaking it into chunks as described earlier), then automatically download subsequent files one by one. 

When all the files are downloaded, customers can install the product with a single click of the “Install” button in the Download Manager.  We try to make it as easy as possible for customers from purchase to install whether there is 1 file or 99 files.

Safer downloads

Lastly, the download manager also provides a level of assurance that you are indeed downloading the correct file payload.  We only download over HTTPS and also do a hash verification on the file after it’s downloaded.  The hash verification is done to be extra sure that the files have not been corrupted or tampered with.  The hash verification can take a long time if the file is multi-gigabyte (e.g. Vista), but we felt this tradeoff was the right one for the sake of protecting customers.

Browser Support

For our initial launch, the Download Manager is only supported with downloads initiated from Internet Explorer 6 and above (Windows XP/2003/Vista).  Before you think it’s a conspiracy to force IE usage, we really did want to support other browsers like Firefox. However, as our schedule progressed, we had to make some tough cuts, and decided to add additional browser support at a later time.  Based on current data of our customers, the majority are still using IE, so we’re getting the biggest bang for the buck in our investment.  However, we still plan on looking at Firefox and other browser integration in the very near future.

Tell us what you think

Have you used the Microsoft Store Download Manager already?  Shoot me an email or drop a comment. We’d love to know what you think.

Introducing the Microsoft Store US

We previously launched Microsologo_msft_store_xlft Store internationally in the UK, Germany and Korea. I’m now happy to announce that we have officially launched Microsoft Store for the U.S!

With this launch, our customers in the U.S. are able to buy first-party software and hardware directly from Microsoft offered in a comprehensive online catalog. On our store, you’ll find products from many categories, ranging from Office 2007 Home and Student and Zoo Tycoon 2 to Xbox 360 Wireless Controllers and the new Zune with that cool Buy from FM feature.

Buy and ship … or buy and download!

In addition to shipping fully packaged products to your doorstep, we offer the additional advantage by making available many Microsoft products to buy and download. This is also commonly referred to as Electronic Software Distribution (ESD).

You pay for an ESD product just like you would for one that would be physically shipped to you. The big difference is that after your payment is confirmed, you can immediately download the product to your computer and install it right away. There is no longer any need to pay for shipping costs and waiting for the big brown truck to drive across the country. You’ll be able to enjoy your software almost immediately – all it takes is the download time of the product, which will vary depending on the size of the digital download.

The obvious fear for most users buying ESD products is not having the software on physical media to re-install the product at a later time. Microsoft Store solves this by letting you re-download the product until mainstream support for the product ends. Typically this is 5 years after the product is released. You always have the option of copying the downloaded products to physical media if you want to have it available longer than the mainstream support lifetime. (You can look up the mainstream support lifecycles for all Microsoft products on the main Microsoft Help and Support site.)

Advantages of buying ESD

First, buying ESD gives you the advantage of perpetual storage of your product keys. For all ESD purchases on Microsoft Store, there is no longer any need to keep a software box, CD jewel case or obscure email around for future reference. Your product key is stored in your Microsoft Store Account alongside your purchase history so you can use it to re-install your software at any time. Convenience anyone?

Second, buying ESD is also better for the environment. I’m not going to get all granola on you and try to quote you an exact environmental impact, but think of the savings of gasoline in shipping products, driving back and forth in your car to a retail store, or even the plastic manufactured and used for the CD jewel cases. With everyone getting worried about their “carbon footprint”, every little bit counts, so why not buy ESD if you can?

Lastly, in a world where lighter weight laptops, such as netbooks, are becoming more common, ESD makes things easier when an optical drive isn’t easily accessible. The first thing I do when I setup a new machine at home, is to run Windows update, and download all the freeware I use such as 7-zip. By extending ESD to Microsoft software, we’re able to increase convenience across the board for a variety of customers, regardless of whether they are using a speedy desktop gaming PC, or the latest netbook.

The Excitement!

Building and launching Microsoft Store for the company is one of the biggest highlights of my career at Microsoft. It has given me tremendous insight, and respect for the complexities of being a retailer, doing business online, and in particular, venturing into the sale and shipment of physical goods.

Looking back at time on the Windows Live ID team, this release was actually relatively short. After 5 years driving one of the world’s largest web services, it was refreshing to deal with a completely different set of challenges, such as supply chain, payment processing, taxes and even how to optimize bit delivery for ESD downloads. It truly has been a humbling learning experience.

Thankfully I work with an incredible team, who not only are as enthusiastic as I am about the product and our customers, but also have the commitment to buckle down and do whatever necessary to ship our product on time.

Tell us what you think!

We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time designing the site to be both “pretty” and functional (my designers are going to kill me for using the word “pretty”). We’ve really taken it to heart to make it easy for customers to find products, buy those products and also make the ESD experience as user friendly as possible.

However, as with any product, there are always improvements that can be made. Take some time to check out the Microsoft Store and let me know what you think.

Additionally, if you want to follow what’s going on with Microsoft Store or other stuff on my mind, follow me on Twitter.